Rugby: Carter focused on All Blacks

New Zealand open their northern hemisphere campaign against Scotland in Sunday's EMC Test at Murrayfield, but for Dan Carter the opposition are an irrelevance.

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It may smack of arrogance or just confidence, but Carter, who was today named in an All Blacks side showing 10 changes, has not looked at the Scotland XV announced on Tuesday.

Instead the Crusaders ace, one of the most talented players of all time, is concerned only about his side improving on the 18-18 draw with Australia in their last Test outing on October 20 in Brisbane.

The All Blacks were seeking a record-equalling 17th successive win, but instead had to settle for a draw as they failed to score a try for the first time since August 2004, a run of 105 fixtures.

"We were pretty disappointed in our last performance in Brisbane," Carter said.

"The tough thing is after a performance like that you want to play the following week and make amends. We've had to wait a couple of weeks before this game, our next opportunity to play better.

"This game it's more about us. We haven't looked at the opposition, Scotland, all that much this week. We're really wanting to focus on our performance so we walk off the pitch at the end of the 80 minutes and be really happy with the performance.

"When you look at it like that it takes the opposition out of the equation.

"This weekend's another chance to really work on our game and put in a performance that we're going to be proud of."

Given the mentality and inward focus of New Zealand, unbeaten in November Tests in Europe since 2002, the omens are not good for a Scotland side seeking a first victory over the All Blacks at the 29th attempt, dating back 107 years.

Carter will assess his rivals - his opposite number is Edinburgh captain Greig Laidlaw - in the 48 hours before kick-off.

The 30-year-old added: "I haven't even seen Scotland's starting line-up or who's playing this week. I've got certain things that I want to get out of this game, more on a personal and team basis, than looking too much at the opponents."

Does that include scoring a try, something Carter - the leading scoring in international rugby with 1360 points in 92 Tests - has not done in two years since the last visit to Murrayfield?

"That would be nice," Carter said. "I didn't even realise that myself."

Scotland lost that game 49-3 and Carter has played 15 Tests since, although he missed the knockout stages of the World Cup win.

Openside flanker Richie McCaw, who lifted the Webb Ellis trophy in Auckland, will start in a back-row also comprising Adam Thomson and Victor Vito, who makes his third Test start.

Wyatt Crockett, Andrew Hore and Owen Franks form the front row, with Luke Romano and Sam Whitelock at lock.

Carter has been paired at half-back with Piri Weepu, with Corey Jane continuing on the right wing and Israel Dagg at full-back.

Three players with fewer than 10 caps complete the back line, wing Julian Savea and centres Tamati Ellison and Ben Smith.

All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen described it as a "no-brainer" to select McCaw in a side which balances experienced heads and fledgling internationals.

Every player will be given an opportunity either this week or against Italy in Rome next week.

Hansen said: "It's the first game of the tour and you want your captain on the paddock. It was a no-brainer.

"We've got a pretty good side and if we prepare well, both physically and mentally, we've got quite a lot of talent. That forces the opposition to do the same thing.

"If both teams go out and play to the best of their ability, it's going to be a cracker of a game."

New Zealand are seeking to complete a calendar year unbeaten with a successful tour which includes matches against Wales and England.

"There have been a couple of games where we let ourselves down, one not so long ago," Hansen added in reference to the Australia draw.

"At the beginning of the year we set out some goals and we challenged ourselves. Every paper we picked up told us we'd have a (World Cup) hangover and that made us more determined not to."

The introduction of new faces has helped.

"That brings enthusiasm and excitement and when All Blacks sides are like that they're usually on the job," Hansen added.

"When they're on the job they've got a lot of talent and because they've got a lot of talent they're capable of winning games."



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